12 Must Know German Shepherd Facts

German shepherds are one of the most popular dogs in the world––and for good reason. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about them.

Nov 26, 2023bySara Payne
discover german shepherds facts

German shepherds are one of the most recognizable and best-loved dog breeds. Besides being a great family pet, you may spot them collaborating with your local police in a K-9 unit or recognize them on your favorite TV show. This fun-loving and hardworking dog breed is everywhere. With a long history of devotion to humans, it is no wonder why they consistently make the AKC’s top dog breeds list every year.

To learn more about the German shepherd, check out these 12 must-know facts.

1. People Bred German Shepherds for Herding

german shepherd in field on alert
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

As the name suggests, this beautiful dog breed originates in Germany. Before the late 1800s, Germany had several different herding dogs for farmers’ livestock. The breed varied from district to district, but German cavalry officer Captain Max von Stephanitz decided to create uniformity and create an ideal herding breed.

He and his colleagues crossed German herder dogs from north and central Germany, working to select the best characteristics. These dogs became the ancestors of the modern German shepherd dog, also known as GSD.

2. The GSD Club Was Created in 1913

german shepherd lying down
Image credit: Pixabay

The first ever registered German shepherd dog was named Horand von Grafrath. Captain von Stephanitz bought him after seeing him in a dog show in western Germany. The dog appeared wolf-like with yellow and gray fur. He was medium-sized, powerful, and with amazing endurance.

Captain von Stephanitz bred Horund and his siblings with a mixture of other dogs to produce the breed standard. By 1913, German shepherds were becoming popular, with one winning a dog show for the first time.

Benjamin Throop, a GSD enthusiast, established the German Shepherd Dog Club in America in 1913. From there, the dog’s popularity only skyrocketed, time and time again being chosen as a favorable breed.

3. German Shepherds Are Eager to Learn

black german shepherd standing
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

German shepherds are eager to please. They have tons of energy and intelligence, which makes them perfect for training. If you choose to own a German shepherd, training them is essential. These dogs need structure and plenty to do. They are adaptable and enjoy the challenge of learning new tasks, generally responding well to positive reinforcement.

These dogs also have a strong protective drive, especially for their family. So, they need early socialization and exposure to family activities to lessen their wariness towards strangers. German shepherds’ trainability means they are often working dogs such as police and drug dogs. It also makes them a familiar face in breed-specific dog sports.

4. German Shepherds Have a Double Coat

german shepherd fur
Image credit: Pixabay

GSDs have medium-length, double-coats. The underlayer is a soft, thin fur. The outer layer is dense and thick. This type of coat helps to protect German shepherds from the elements since, as herding dogs, they spent most of their time outdoors. Their double coats are also water-repellant and insulate these dogs against the cold.

If you have a German shepherd, you may have noticed that winter is your dog’s favorite time. German shepherds love to play in the snow and enjoy a romp in the cold, and their fur is like a large overcoat.

The classic image that comes to mind when you say German shepherd is a golden-brown coat with black ears and back. Yet, GSDs come in many colors. They are either bi-colored or solid. Their coats come in many colors, including solid black and solid white.

5. German Shepherds Have Sensitive Stomachs

german shepherd food
Image credit: Unsplash

Many new owners are surprised to learn that German shepherds are prone to food sensitivities and allergies. This causes them to suffer from some health conditions common in dogs, including:

  • Bloat
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin irritations like itchiness, lesions, or frequent ear infections
  • Vomiting
  • Gas

The symptoms above are also signs that your dog has a food allergy. These allergies may affect their skin, too. Experts recommend feeding your dog food brands that focus on health. Many dogs who develop food allergies are allergic to the low-quality grains in the food, but some can also be allergic to common proteins, such as chicken and beef.

These allergies can develop at any age, even if your pet has been eating the same food for years.

6. German Shepherds Are Prone to Hip Dysplasia

german shepherd resting head
Image credit: Pexels

Another common problem that German shepherd dogs suffer from is hip dysplasia. This disease is more common in large dog breeds. GSDs with this disease develop hip dysplasia during their growth phase. With this condition, the hip joint becomes loose, and the cartilage and bone begin to wear down.

This causes the dog pain and impacts mobility. The treatment is usually surgery, physical therapy, and oral supplements. While there are sometimes other treatment methods, they can be expensive.

This disease is hereditary, so the best way to avoid having a German shepherd with this disease is to make sure you select an ethical dog breeder who has screened their breeding pair for common hereditary conditions.

7. German Shepherds Need a Lot of Mental Stimulation

german shepherd puppy with sun
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you want an energetic dog, the German shepherd is the perfect pet for you. This dog breed has endless energy. They love to play and solve puzzles. They are great dogs for farms where they can run and play for many hours during the day. German Shepherds, like other dogs in the herding group, need a lot of exercise.

For GSDs who live in a small apartment or house, this exercise time is the only thing keeping your furniture safe from destruction. German shepherds have been known to destroy a couch due to pent-up boredom––even developing common behavioral problems for dogs.

Puzzles, training, and teaching them fun, easy tricks are also excellent choices for keeping your GSD occupied on snowy or rainy days when you might not be able to get outside as much. They need to have plenty to do to keep them from redirecting their energy into destructive behaviors.

8. German Shepherds Are Family Dogs

german shepherd and couch
Image credit: Pixabay

Since German shepherds are quite protective of those they love, they have gotten a bad reputation for being aggressive. Yet, these dogs are fiercely devoted to their families. They love their family and enjoy the energy and affection of children, making great family pets.

However, it is important to make sure they are socialized early. Their protective and wary natures can become aggressive if you do not properly redirect these actions into play or a chore. If you adopt a grown German shepherd from a shelter, it’s a good idea to understand its personality before introducing it to young children.

Here’s some good news when it comes to older GSDs: old dogs can learn new tricks, and training an older dog is possible. It just requires work.

9. German Shepherds Are Great Guard Dogs

german shepherd protecting
Image credit: Twitter

German shepherds are a force of nature. They have some intimidating growls and barks. Their strength and endurance can result in a nasty bite. So, if you are looking for a guard dog, GSDs are an excellent choice.

People bred GSDs to protect livestock for farmers in Germany, so they are ready to defend whatever they believe is theirs, whether that be you or their food dish.

These dogs are typically very loving and get along well with other animals, but if they are improperly socialized or people train them to be aggressive, these dogs can be dangerous.

10. German Shepherds Are Working Dogs

german shepherd uniform
Image credit: Rideout Law

Due to their need for mental stimulation, trainability, and physical endurance, German shepherds are the perfect working dog. Even as people moved away from keeping livestock to living in big cities, the German shepherd found new vocations.

Many police forces train German shepherds to protect officers, sniff out drugs, and rescue people in danger. German shepherds also work as service, emotional support, and therapy dogs.

Even if your German shepherd doesn’t have an official title, he can work at home helping you with chores. Your GSD will love the challenge. You can train your GSD to turn on and off lights, close doors, fetch packages, and do many more household chores.

11. There Are Several Famous German Shepherds

rin tin tin movie poster
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Did you realize that another job your GSD could find work as an actor? There have been several famous German shepherds over the years. They are not only beautiful on screen, but their trainability makes them the perfect action hero.

The most famous on-screen German shepherd was Rin Tin Tin. A retired military dog, Rin Tin Tin starred in several movies and TV shows in the 1950s. His offspring also lit up the big screen. Lightning and Silver were also German shepherd dogs who starred in films, such as When Lightning Strikes.

12. German Shepherds Are the 4th Most Popular Breed

white german shepherd tongue out
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Every year, the American Kennel Club (AKC) puts out a list of the most popular dog breeds. From 2013 to 2022, the German shepherd has consistently been in the top five of that list. Just last year, they were ranked at #4. Their popularity has seen ebbs and flows over the years, but never too much.

Other dogs that accompany German shepherds as the most popular dogs on the AKC’s list include French bulldogs, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and poodles.

German Shepherds: a Remarkable Legacy

german shepherd puppy
Image credit: Pixabay

German shepherds are an amazing dog breed. Since the late 1800s, this breed has flourished, entering the hearts of so many. They are easy to train, great family pets, hardworking, able to endure the cold and wet, and incredibly intelligent dogs. When many people imagine man’s best friend, the German shepherd comes to mind.

Sara Payne
bySara Payne

Sara is a mother of two and a high school English teacher who rediscovered her love of writing during the pandemic. She has 5 rescue cats: Neville and Luna, who are white cats with black and grey spots, and Ginny, Blue, and Fairy, who are calicos. Besides taking care of humans and fur babies, Sara enjoys gardening, crafting, and spending time in nature.